A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper : Making Sense of the Numbers in the Headlines, Paperback

A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper : Making Sense of the Numbers in the Headlines Paperback

Part of the Penguin science series

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


From crime figures to health scares, election polls to stock market forecasts, numbers make the news all the time.

But are they accurate? John Allen Paulos, travels through the pages of an average newspaper, revealing how mathematics is at the heart of the articles we read everyday - even horoscopes and the sports pages - and how often they mislead us.

By understanding simple concepts such as probability, chaos theory and game theory, you'll be able to see through faulty statistics, stock market forecasters and conspiracy theorists - and make the figures truly add up.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224 pages, bibliography, index
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • ISBN: 9780140251814



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

"Mathematical naivete can put readers at a disadvantage in thinking about many issues in the news that may not seem to involve mathematics at all" says the author of this absolutely fascinating book. He shows how whatever figures are tossed out in the press when writing about health scares, racial quotas, voting patterns, DNA testing have been simplified to the point where they have little validity at all. Read this to inform yourself and to help you read reports in the media with a very large pinch of salt.

Review by

This is a collection of very short pieces on a variety of topics related to the presentation and interpretation of math and statistics in the news(papers). It is, in essence, a skeptic's toolbox for reading the paper more effectively.The math is very accessible to the non-specialist reader, and it's written in a light and engaging style. Originally published in 1995, the "currency" has aged a bit, though one can substitute "bank bailout" for "Savings and Loan bailout", etc., and the math still holds. A fun read for those who enjoy math, or those who would like to understand probability and statistics a bit better. Excerpts from this volume would be ideal supplementary material to an undergraduate "math for non-mathematicians" (especially journalism majors) class, especially since many problems, or classes of problems, are suggested in the text.

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